Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Coffer

  • Place of origin:

    Flanders (region) (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wrought iron

  • Museum number:

    M.295:1 to 2-1912

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery, case WN, shelf EXP []

From the medieval period until around 1700, large chests for storage and seating were the commonest pieces of furniture in any household. Before the establishment of banks in the 17th century, chests had also to serve as safes, suitably reinforced with iron straps and formidable locks. This massive chest weighs around 200 kg. and is extremely sturdy. Its three separate locks suggest that it had three key-holders. To open it, a secret catch reveals a dummy hinge strap, revealing three keyholes, one of which releases a long internal bolt. A further level of security is provided by an internal safe.
Within the home, a large chest might store clothing and bedding, gold and silver plate and coinage. Institutions and churches also used chests to hold valuables, including documents and parish records.

Physical description

Wrought iron chest, oblong with slightly domed hinged lid, a handle at each end within decorative Gothic style tracery and four ball feet. At each corner is a massive iron baluster. The body and lid are further strengthened by seven wide bands attached by moulded rivets. The real hinges along the back of the lid are matched by fake hinges along the front. The associated key is much later in date.

The left hand hasp cannot be closed without placing undue pressure on the hinge.

Place of Origin

Flanders (region) (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Wrought iron

Marks and inscriptions

Unmarked

Dimensions

Height: 71.7 cm, Width: 113.7 cm, Depth: 62.4 cm, Weight: 200 kg

Object history note

Bought in 1912 for £70 from a Mr E. de W. Holding, Corn Exchange, Northampton.

Historical significance: This is a rare example of a Netherlandish chest made entirely from wrought iron. Large chests were usually made with a wooden carcase, reinforced with iron bands, locks and hinges.

Historical context note

From the medieval period until around 1700, large chests for storage and seating were the commonest pieces of furniture in any household. Before the establishment of banks in the 17th century, chests had also to serve as safes, suitably reinforced with iron straps and formidable locks. Within the home, a large chest might store clothing and bedding, gold and silver plate and coinage. Institutions and churches also used chests to hold valuables, including documents and parish records. [Campbell, An Introduction to Ironwork, 1985, p. 46]

Late medieval and 16th century Netherlandish and German ironworkers were famous for their elaborately designed lockwork and door furniture (hinges, escutcheon plates etc). The method of opening this chest is not immediately apparent, with fake hinges along the front of the lid cleverly concealing the opening.

Northern European ironworkers continued to make objects in the late medieval Gothic style well into the 16th century.

Descriptive line

Coffer, wrought iron, oblong with slightly domed hinged lid, Flanders, early 16th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.46, fig.67
Campbell, Marian. An Introduction to Ironwork. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1985. 48 p., ill. ISBN 0112904157
Campbell, Marian, Decorative Ironwork, London, V&A Publications, 1997, pp. 110-113, fig. 188, ill.
Starkie Gardner, J., revised and enlarged by Watts, W.W. Ironwork: Part II: Continental Ironwork of the Renaissance and Later Periods, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1896 (1978 edn), p. 54, pl. 23., ill.

Labels and date

STRONG BOX
Iron
SOUTH NETHERLANDISH or GERMAN;
about 1500
M.295-1912
Massive boxes such as this one were made to hold valuables, including costly garments. The Gothic style was used by ironworkers well into the sixteenth century. []
COFFER
Iron
Flemish; 16th century []
STRONG BOX
Iron
South Netherlandish or German; about 1500
Massive boxes such as this one were made to hold valuable, including costly garments. The Gothic style was used by ironworks well into the sixteenth century. []
COFFER
Wrought iron
Flanders; early 16th century
M.295-1912

Strengthened by wide bands attached by rivets with moulded heads and decorated with Gothic tracery at either end. The key is modern. [07/1994]

Materials

Iron

Subjects depicted

Tracery

Categories

Metalwork; Containers; Household objects; Ironwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.

Ajax-loader